Telling Detail : Chinese Fiction, World Literature book cover
1st Edition

Telling Detail
Chinese Fiction, World Literature

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after February 11, 2022
ISBN 9781032197852
February 11, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
280 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

What is a detail? How is it different from xijie, its Chinese counterpart? Is "reading for the details" fundamentally different from "reading for the plot"? Gazing out on the larger literary world through the small aperture of the detail, Telling Detail: Chinese Fiction, World Literature promises to shed new critical light on the Chinese novel—its tradition and modernity, its depth and difficulty, its relationship with history, and its place in world literature. Xijie xiaoshuo, the detail-centric Chinese fictional form, represents an alternative type of narration that holds a key to understanding Chinese literary realism.  

Examining the role of the detail turns out to reveal certain unseen depths as well as the striking vulnerability of Chinese fiction in national and international contexts. With carefully chosen case studies, Xiao demonstrates an intensive way to read the Chinese "novel of details," exemplifying the value of "deep reading" in approaching complex works of world literature.

This book shows how the Chinese literary detail can become "telling" in a most modern way—as it reveals the dynamics of seeing and hearing, the mind that vibrates with the world, and the imperative to recognize the minute, the humble, and the hidden. 

Table of Contents


Part One Detail & Difference

Part Two The Novel of Details
1. In the Realm of the Senses: Looking into Jin Ping Mei

2. Seeing is Remembering: Zhang Dai’s Rhapsodic Texts and Modern Chinese Lyrical Fiction

3. Silent Strangers and Strange Silence: The Edge and the Center of The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai

4. Fragments of Time, Fiction of Details: Eileen Chang, Late Style, and World Literature

5. From Border Town to the Frontier of the Mind: Shen Congwen’s Passage to the World

6. Jia Pingwa’s Mountains and Seas: "Untranslatable" Fiction as World Literature


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Jiwei Xiao teaches Chinese language, literature, and cinema at Fairfield University. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University. Her wide-ranging publications on literature and cinema have appeared in New Left Review, New York Review of Books, Journal of Contemporary China, MCLC, Film Quarterly, Cineaste, and other journals and magazines.